(Los Angeles, June 26, 2023) – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) vehemently denounces the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated against Armenian prisoners of war (POWs), hostages, and other detainees held illegally by Azerbaijan since September 2020. On the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, ANCA-WR emphasizes the need to address the heinous violations of international humanitarian law by the Azerbaijani armed forces and government, demanding the immediate release of all Armenian POWs, and calling upon the US Government and the international community to hold Azerbaijan accountable for violating the seventh clause of the November 9 tripartite statement regarding the immediate release of captured POWs.
On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey and foreign mercenaries, launched a devastating military assault on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), resulting in the merciless deaths of thousands and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of Armenians from Artsakh. Despite the precedents set by international law and the terms of the tripartite statement signed on November 9, 2020, which underscored the immediate exchange of POWs and other detainees, Azerbaijan flagrantly and unlawfully continues to hold dozens of Armenian POWs and civilian detainees, shamelessly misrepresenting the status of some as “terrorists” to legitimize their continued captivity in direct violation of the Geneva Convention (III).
Numerous credible reports, including those from Human Rights Watch and Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, have documented alarming war crimes and acts of torture committed by Azerbaijani armed forces against Armenian combatants and civilians. These include physical abuse, humiliation, beheadings, summary executions, and the desecration of human remains.
In August 2022, civil society organizations in Armenia published a comprehensive fact-finding report (Human Rights Violations during the 44-Day War in Artsakh), revealing at least 19 confirmed cases of extrajudicial executions of Armenian POWs and detainees at the hands of the Azerbaijani armed forces. Furthermore, the representative of Armenian POWs at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Siranush Sahakyan, confirmed that several fact-finding efforts were able to verify at least 80 more cases of captivity of Armenian POWs, with the possibility of additional unverified cases. Sahakyan emphasized that about 40 individuals were killed or shot after being taken captive by Azerbaijani armed forces during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 Conflict. These findings highlight the urgency and seriousness of the situation, as Azerbaijan continues to withhold acknowledgment or disclosure of the status of these individuals, violating international regulations.
Since the conclusion of the 2020 Conflict, Azerbaijan has continuously captured and extrajudicially executed Armenian POWs, including within the sovereign territories of the Republic of Armenia as recently as in May 2023. In September 2022, when Azerbaijan violated the territorial integrity of Armenia, Azerbaijani soldiers cold-bloodedly executed at least seven Armenian POWs as documented by Human Rights Watch.
The continued detention of POWs by Azerbaijan raises serious doubts about its commitment to a lasting peace settlement in the region. In fact, Azerbaijan has constantly used POWs as a bargaining chip within peace negotiations with the Republic of Armenia. In contrast to Azerbaijan’s blatant disregard of the seventh clause of the November 9 statement, Armenia has fulfilled its obligations of the exchange by returning all Azerbaijani POWs, demonstrating its commitment to international law and peace-building efforts.
On the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, ANCA-WR reiterates its commitment to standing in solidarity with all victims of torture and human rights abuses, and emphasizes the need to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its countless war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law, including the extrajudicial execution, arbitrary detention, and mistreatment of Armenian POWs and detainees.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA Western Region advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
Press release drafted by Sonia Meroian who is a member of ANCA Western Region’s 2023 Summer Internship Program. She recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a concentration in International Relations. Her primary research interests include the study of international conflicts and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA).